We review various existing models of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and show that there are inconsistencies between the models and known behaviour of the infection. A new model for HCV infection is proposed, based on various dynamical processes that occur during the infection that are described in the literature. This new model is analysed, and three steady state branches of solutions are found when there is no stem cell generation of hepatocytes. Unusually, the branch of infected solutions that connects the uninfected branch and the pure infection branch can be found analytically and always includes a limit point, subject to a few conditions on the parameters. When the action of stem cells is included, the bifurcation between the pure infection and infected branches unfolds, leaving a single branch of infected solutions. It is shown that this model can generate various viral load profiles that have been described in the literature, which is confirmed by fitting the model to four viral load datasets. Suggestions for possible changes in treatment are made based on the model.
Keywords: HCV infection; bifurcations; mathematical model; steady state solutions.